Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Capital III, Chapter 23 - Part 2

Both money-capital and industrial capital have this in common, the capital advanced is not at the disposal of the capitalist. If an industrial capitalist advances £1,000 of productive-capital, that capital cannot then be used by the capitalist to meet their consumption needs, or speculation etc. Moreover, even when this capital has completed its cycle it is not at the disposal of the capitalist, because the completion of the cycle requires that the realised money-capital is used to reproduce the advanced productive-capital. It is only the surplus value that is available to the capitalist, to use for purposes other than functioning as capital.

The same is true for the money-capitalist. As soon as they loan out their money-capital, it is no longer at their disposal, but has been put at the disposal of the borrower. If the borrower is an industrial capitalist, who uses the money as capital, then what was said above still applies. The fact they have borrowed their operating capital, rather than provided it themselves, does not change things in that respect.

But, when the money-capitalist obtains the return of their loaned capital, like the industrial capitalist, if this money is to continue to function as capital, it must be once more thrown into circulation as loaned capital, and once more ceases to be at the disposal of the money-capitalist. In this case, only the interest it produces is at their disposal.

“As long as capital functions in the process of reproduction — assuming that it even belongs to the industrial capitalist and he has no need of paying it back to a lender — the capitalist, as a private individual, does not have at his disposal this capital itself, but only the profit, which he may spend as revenue. As long as his capital functions as capital, it belongs to the process of reproduction, is tied up in it. He is, indeed, its owner, but this ownership does not enable him to dispose of it in any other way, so long as he uses it as capital for the exploitation of labour. The same is true of the money-capitalist. So long as his capital is loaned out and thereby serves as money-capital, it brings him interest, a portion of the profit, but he cannot dispose of the principal. This is evident whenever he loans out his capital for, say, a year, or more, and receives interest at certain stipulated times without the return of his principal. But even the return of the principal makes no difference here. If he gets it back, he must always loan it out again, so long as it is to function for him as capital — here as money-capital. As long as he keeps it in his own hands, it does not collect interest and does not act as capital; and as long as it does gather interest and serve as capital, it is out of his hands.” (p 371)

Tooke is wrong, therefore, Marx says, when he criticises Bosanquet  for saying that if the rate of interest fell to 1%, it would mean that there would be little difference between money-capital that had been borrowed, and that which had been provided by the industrial capitalist themselves. Marx quotes Tooke,

“"That a capital borrowed at that, or even a lower rate, should be considered nearly on a par with capital possessed, is a proposition so strange as hardly to warrant serious notice were it not advanced by a writer so intelligent, and, on some points of the subject, so well informed. Has he overlooked the circumstance, or does he consider it of little consequence, that there must, by the supposition, be a condition of repayment?"; (Th. Tooke, An Inquiry into the Currency Principle, 2nd ed., London, 1844, p. 80.)” (p 371)

Bosanquet is right, Marx says, because if the rate of interest fell to zero, the industrial capitalist would keep all of the profit, just as they would if they had provided the money-capital from their own pocket. The fact they have to pay back the principal does not change that. In order to continue in business, that capital must once more be thrown into circulation to buy productive-capital, whether it is their own capital or borrowed capital. If it is borrowed capital, then having repaid the original principal, they are simply placed in the position of borrowing that sum once more.

“The nearer interest approaches zero, the nearer p - i approaches p, and hence the nearer the two capitals are to being on a par. The one must pay back the capital and borrow anew; yet the other must likewise advance it again and again to the production process, so long as his capital is to function, and cannot dispose of it freely, independent of this process. The sole remaining difference between the two is the obvious difference that one is the owner of his capital, and the other is not.” (p 371-2)

Back To Part 1

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